We Are the City Spotlight On Springboard Collaborative
By Teresa Arriaga, Executive Director of Springboard Collaborative
Springboard Collaborative (Springboard) is a literacy non-profit that coaches family members and educators to help children learn to read by fourth grade. We are working to close the literacy gap by bridging the gap between home and school. Springboard’s recipe for impact is a method we call Family-Educator Learning Accelerators (or FELAs). FELAs are 5-to-10-week cycles during which educators and family members team up to help kids reach learning goals. In the beginning, families and educators build a relationship and set a goal during an initial team-building huddle. Over the program cycle, kids practice with their educators in the classroom, with their families at home, and the whole team practices together during five weekly/bi-weekly family workshops. The cycle concludes by measuring and recognizing progress with incentives and an end-of-program celebration.
Springboard was founded in Philadelphia in 2012 by Alejandro Gibes de Gac, a first-grade teacher who grew frustrated that it took until Thanksgiving for his students’ reading levels to finally catch up to where they had been before the summer. We launched our first San Francisco-based program at Bret Harte Elementary in summer 2015. In the years since, Springboard has grown its local reach from 120 to 1,500 Bay Area students served annually. Our latest partnership with SFUSD was a ten-week after-school program in spring 2022 that connected 800 TK-5 students and their families with research-based classroom literacy instruction and transformative family engagement resources to help kids build lasting reading habits.
Despite lingering challenges of the pandemic, Springboard students, educators, and family member participants continue to exhibit significant growth. For example, 92% of students enrolled in our summer 2021 program with SFUSD improved their reading proficiency, growing by 1.5 reading levels on average. During the same period, 90% of families participated in a 1:1 goal-setting meeting with their child’s educator (aka “team-building huddle”) and 90% attended at least one family workshop. This is remarkable considering that nationally many schools struggle to achieve minimal attendance at regular report card conferences. Family member and educator excitement at students’ measurable progress clearly shines through in this recent feedback from SFUSD program participants:
“Thank you for everything you have done this summer helping to inspire him [my son] to read. It has been great to watch his confidence and desire to read grow. The program has helped to create a rhythm in our household to read daily.” — Yarrow, Summer 2021 Springboard Family Member
“The one-on-one support with scholars, collaboration with families, and amazing teamwork with [Springboard Collaborative] has been an enriching experience, and I am proud to be a part of these scholars’ reading journey.”— Mia, Summer 2021 Springboard Teacher
“We reconnected with reading to each other again. We learned to have fun and act out the characters and we can relate them to family or friends. We had lost the love of reading. Thank you for getting us back on track.” — Grace, Summer 2020 Springboard Family Member
The last few years have certainly not been without challenges. To better accommodate families and educators amongst abrupt school closures and transitions to remote instruction, Springboard quickly adapted our classroom literacy curriculum and family engagement resources for effective virtual implementation (an option that remains available to this day). Despite the chaos of the early pandemic, we were still able to connect roughly 500 San Francisco students with our virtual programs in summer 2020 and spring 2021. We built on this success in summer 2021 and then again this spring when SFUSD turned to us to support 800 students across their Title I schools.
The most significant COVID-related factors continuing to impact Springboard participants in the Bay Area are ongoing staffing shortages and educator burnout. One way we are working to ensure consistent, equitable, and quality learning experiences for ALL students engaging with our curriculum and classroom resources is the creation of an implementation guide for educators. The implementation guide can be paired with classroom curricula to provide additional support for instructors–regardless of their background–by explicitly describing the evidence behind key instructional components and how they can be optimized to provide targeted support for students. The implementation guide is scheduled to enter the pilot phase in summer 2022.
San Francisco is a special place to grow up. Springboard is proud of our role in shaping the next generation of San Franciscans so that they can be successful in school, work, and life. By emphasizing the importance of family engagement in early literacy education and building educator capacity through professional development, Springboard’s FELA methodology is helping to create a city where all children are supported by nurturing families and communities. We are honored to have the opportunity to strengthen connections at every level of a child’s support system–family, school, and community–through reading.
In spite of all the resources available to help students read on grade level, every year ~1.7M children marginalized by race/ethnicity and/or poverty enter fourth grade without the requisite reading skills to access life opportunities. At Springboard we believe — and ample research supports — that the taproot is something the education sector has long neglected: the essential role families play in their children’s learning. A family’s love for their child is the single greatest — and most underutilized — natural resource in education. Research shows that family involvement in their children’s learning is a more powerful predictor of academic success than any other variable, including race and class.
Springboard envisions an education system in which families and educators work together — rather than in isolation — to accelerate student learning. By engaging families in children’s learning as standard practice, the American K-12 education system will measurably narrow opportunity gaps that have persisted for the last half century. As a result, our country will better fulfill its promise of educational opportunity, especially for marginalized populations for whom the American dream has been a dream deferred. In the United States, there is a deeply held conviction that education is the great equalizer. Indeed, it can be — but only if we look beyond the four walls of the classroom and support marginalized families as critical partners in student learning.
Springboard seeks to address the literacy achievement gap at the scale at which it exists, both locally and nationally. Within ten years, we aim to grow our impact from 20,000 to 200,000 students served annually in order to make significant progress towards institutionalizing family engagement in early literacy education. Continued partnerships with large districts, such as SFUSD, bring us one step closer to achieving this aspirational goal.